Summer is over, sad face. We're into September now which means back to reality and back to wading through college work and life and not being able to use the excuse "but it's summer" as a viable excuse to be a bit lazy 😂
September is also when I have my birthday. The 21st, to be exact. So I'll be looking forward to that and I'll be looking forward to going back to Sligo in a few days and getting out to Strandhill, Rosses Point and seeing friends again, so it'll be a pretty hectic month!
But on to the blog post!
So at the start of the summer, right after I came back from Erasmus, it was a quick change over before I was on the road to the airport, heading to South Africa!
I returned to Ireland on the 7th of June, a Wednesday and on the 10th, a Saturday, I was packed up and ready, with my family, to head off again.
PreparationThe preparation for South Africa began pretty much as soon as we were told about the trip. As this was a family holiday-style trip, amazingly paid for by my father, it was his idea to go there in the first place. So to get prepared for South Africa, it was a case of researching the areas we were going. Listing what we could go and see, what we would like to do and make sure we have all the necessary items, medicines and accessories for the trip.
- One of the key things to get done before going to South Africa was to make sure that we were all appropriately and carefully medically checked and vaccinated. Things to get vaccinated against were tetanus, hepatitis and typhoid. Being in Spain, it was a bit of a task to find a place that would vaccinate against, basically, tropical diseases. For anyone travelling abroad to a place that may require vaccinations, check out this website to find a tropical medicine bureau/clinic near you: https://www.tmb.ie/
- In the month that we travelled to South Africa, June. It was winter time in South Africa. Now once we got there, it was 30 degrees celsius, which for an Irish person, is far better than any day in our summer. So for me, the essentials needed for the trip were items such as shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, caps and light shoes. Whilst there, we were treated to some odd looks from the locals. They were in body warmers and long pants, calling it cold.
- Travel Agent documents/information. Travelling via a travel agent, as we did. Keeping an eye on your documents and making sure you have all times, dates and information correct, and it'll make for a less-stress time.
The next leg of the trip was from London Heathrow to Johannesberg Airport in South Africa. We boarded the aircraft, got everything settled and sorted. For
me, it was my first experience of a real long haul flight, so it was quite fun to see tv screens, blankets and food being served on the aircraft, I mean it made the trip feel a bit more luxurious. We weren't taxiing to the runway and setting off. Flight time- Just over 10 hours. The start of the trip is the amazement stage where we picked through the movies and music, ate our on-board meal and tried to sleep. We flew from London to South Africa with South African Airways who provided a nice service, a comfortable flight and the food was not too bad! Here is some advice for if you're going to do the long-haul trip:
- Travel Socks: You'd be quite surprised, as even I was skeptical about whether or not to wear travel socks, as in my head I was thinking "Damn, I'm not an old man, I don't need to wear travel socks". For me, a few hours into the flight and my legs started getting sore and the compression in the cabin was making my feet swell a bit but the socks kind of contained it and made the flight just that bit more comfortable. I'd recommend when doing the trip to pack a pair of travel socks, just in case.
- Neck Pillow: One of the things that made the flight a whole lot nicer was the fact that I had brought my own travel neck pillow. When I sleep on a plane or bus or other transport, my neck really gets strained. A great investment for those long haul and even short haul flights is a travel neck pillow. I purchased my memory foam neck pillow from Primark/Penneys for only 4 euro. 4 euro well spent! For info on the Primark/Penneys neck pillow: https://www.primark.com/en-ie/product/memory-foam-travel-pillow,d1181102620150104
- Download Movies/Shows: Although South African Airways provided almost up to date movies, music and tv shows, there was only limited selection. Don't be totally reliant on that, download a couple episodes of a show or a couple movies. I mean, for a 10 hour trip, you could definitely start and finish a season of Game of Thrones!
In the evening, we went to the main reception where we were ushered to another part of the resort. Along the trail there was little bonfires lit and we were given a cup of some sort of beverage. Hoping it was alcohol, it was downed but however, it was not. It turned out to be some sort of banana pureé kind of drink that did not go down well. We entered this sand pit area where there were other guests seated in the audience area. We were given a bowl of spicy popcorn and waited.
The rest of the stay in Hippo Hollow included a lot of eating and relaxing by the pool. But of course, we were in SOUTH AFRICA so we couldn't say no to a few activities during out relaxation time.
- Lowveld View
- Berlin Falls
- Bourkes Potholes
- Lisbon Falls
- The Pinnacle
Window. Probably one of the most stunning views I have ever seen in my life. The air up there was so fresh and the view was like nothing I've seen before. The dense forest and the sun shining through the valley, the name was truly fitting. If anyone is going to Nelspruit, go and see God's Window. It's just fantastic.
heaven. But alas, it didn't last forever and we made our way back to Hazyview.
Elephant WhispersAs I mentioned above when we arrived at Hippo Hollow, we were having lunch and we could see elephants roaming around the hills. Well, adjoining Hippo Hollow is actually an elephant sanctuary which does deals with Hippo Hollow and allows guests to come up for a morning and see the elephants, so obviously we had to do it!
We woke up excited to go and see the elephants. They're an animal I would
definitely associate with like, exotic and sub-Saharan holidays. If I dreamed of going on safari, elephants are definitely on the top of the list. Luckily my dream came true. Gulping down my bran muffin and croissants, we were led across the bridge that joins Hippo Hollow and Elephant Whispers by one of the Elephant Whispers' staff.
We got to the main shop/office area and the first thing we saw was the fattest dog but probably one of the cutest dogs I've ever seen. A big loaf of bread laying in the shade. We went to the office area so we could sign the disclaimer saying that we'd be surrounded by elephants and we're responsible for our actions. We signed and waited for the guides to come and get us.
Shortly, a guide brought us to the main arena-like area where they had six elephants waiting to greet us. Literally such fascinating creatures. Hugely intelligent but also very friendly. I was surprised at how close we could get to
the elephants. They brought one or two of the elephants forward and laid them down so we could understand more about the physiology and life of an elephant in the wild. Absorbent skin, huge satellite ears, bristley hairs on them and really weird texture to their skin. My favorite elephant had to be Tembo. The 3.4 metre giant who weighed like 6 tonnes. We had our elephant pellets and were able to ask Tembo to do some commands. Lift his leg. Shake his trunk. Take the hat off your head. All in the name of food. An animal after my own heart, to be fair.
After the in-depth look at the elephants, we got what we all came for, a ride on the back of an elephant. It has to the one of the coolest things ever. Sitting and feeling the weird way the elephant walks. Seeing the area surrounding our resort on the back of an elephant. It was really really magnificent. We got to ride on the back of Tembo, so we were 3.4 metres off the ground and it was awesome!
A little tip for riding a 6tonne x 3.4 metre elephant... Wear something you can be flexible in. It hurts.
You can see more about Elephant Whispers here: http://www.seasonsinafrica.com/adventure-activities-in-south-africa/lowveld-activities/elephant-whispers/
The rest of our time in Hippo Hollow was spent eating, drinking and lounging. But after our activities, it wasn't long until we were onto the next stage of our African adventure!
Be sure to stay tuned for the next part of the African Adventure!